clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rudy Gobert is sick and tired of the Utah Jazz’s lazy starts

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) loses the ball as San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) grabs him during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Jazz lost 104-113.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) loses the ball as San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) grabs him during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Jazz lost 104-113.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — What happened on Friday night?

I’ll tell you. The Utah Jazz barely showed up to their own home game and the San Antonio Spurs were gifted an easy win.

That might seem a little harsh and it could be over simplifying things, so don’t take it from me. Take it from the Jazz’s defensive anchor and All-Star Rudy Gobert, who has absolutely had enough of the Jazz being the team that has to wait until their backs are against the wall to show any fight.

“It’s on us to be more physical and come out with an edge that we used to have,” Gobert said after the 113-104 loss. “If you want to be a champion, if you want to be one of the best teams in the league it’s got to be who we are and we’ve got to come out every night with that chip on our shoulder. No matter who we play we’ve got to come out with something to prove. That’s what teams are doing to us and they’re having fun.

“They don’t really respect us, They come out, push us around, deny us, we don’t react, take us out of what we want to do, and then offensively they’re just playing free. Dejounte Murray, all these guys they’re playing like they get out of the cage and they can do whatever they want because it’s easy.”

There’s a cycle that the Jazz can get stuck in, much like they did Friday night, where they start a game sluggish and sloppy and allow the opponent to gain some momentum and a hefty advantage.

Quin Snyder gets mad and the players get mad at themselves, but by then it’s too late. The other team has the confidence. They have everything they need to withstand any kind of run the Jazz are going to put together.

Then when it’s all said and done, after the bench is emptied out signaling defeat, after the team has stewed in the loss and can only reflect on their poor sense of urgency, they grasp for what is tangible — what they can see in the box score.

Gobert sees that the Spurs scored just 28 points in the paint compared to the Jazz’s 42 and that the Spurs shot 50 percent from three-point range.

“They couldn’t get nothing at the rim, but they could get everything they wanted on the perimeter,” he said. “So it’s on us to figure out what we can do as a team to make the guys rush them and try to make them go to the rim and see what happens.”

Gobert wants the Jazz to play to their strengths and stop letting teams get so far ahead early on in the game that they have barely any chance to catch up. It’s good that he’s mad. He should be.

“It’s on us to come out with the mindset of killers,” he said. “Don’t give them anything. Don’t let them get confidence early in the game. Let Dejounte Murray hit some threes and try to get to the rim, don’t let him just dribble around feeling good and laughing.”

It’s easy to hear Gobert say something like that and feel like he is tossing blame at the guards on the team after Murray scored a game-high 23 points, and maybe he is to an extent. The Jazz’s defense definitely doesn’t deserve any praise after allowing the Spurs to move around with ease from the perimeter and through the mid-range with little-to-no resistance.

But, Gobert is also saying that he welcomes the responsibility of carrying the torch of reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The Jazz have a lethal rim weapon who is angry. They should take him up on the offer.

Instead, on Friday night the Jazz completely broke down. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, if it’s completely broken, throw everything you have at the wall and see if something sticks.

That’s where Emmanuel Mudiay came in, scoring 18 points off the bench in an attempt to inject some life into the lifeless Jazz, but it was too late.

The Utah Jazz looked like they needed a vacation from their vacation. They have not won the first game back after All-Star break since 2017. That means that Donovan Mitchell has never won that first game after the mid-season intermission.

Blame can go all over the place. You could say that the Jazz were rusty after the long intermission, but the Spurs looked fine. You could say that the Jazz had two All-Stars who didn’t get the rest they needed over the break. So did the Houston Rockets and they won on Thursday.

The truth is that we’ve seen this throughout the season. The Jazz have not consistently had that killer instinct to open games and they are forced to chase the score too often.

After the game Snyder entered his post-game interview room and before anyone had the chance to ask a question he said that his team earned the loss against the Spurs.

The Jazz should take a page out of that book.

On Saturday night, when the Rockets face the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena, before anyone has to tell them to be more physical, before Snyder gets mad, before the players get mad, and before they’re fighting another uphill battle, they need to play like they want to win.